Sunday, October 26, 2014

Morrowind Day 108 - Confidence Boosted

31 Sun's Dusk
More progress made again today! I am so close to completing the Skaal's Test of Loyalty and could have completed it today, but was distracted by other tasks made to me.

I had wisely completed my work with the Earth Stone late last night and therefore had no need to walk all the way to the west coast of the island. Instead, the Tree Stone was my next target and almost directly north of Fort Frostmoth.

On my way there I stopped to explore a small underground cave, but it proved to be as rewarding as the family tombs back on Vvardenfell: a few flasks of cheap elixir, some scattered coins, and a large collection of worthless sundries. Unlike the ancestral tombs of the Dunmer though, the cave was completely unoccupied.
The bears and wolves were oddly absent all morning and I found the Tree Stone easily and without any incident. Approaching it provided me with my next Test of Loyalty, this test was to find the stolen seeds of the First Tree. I was told the thief fled east and that that whomever held these seeds "controlled the trees", but what that actually meant was not made clear. Once I recovered the seeds I was to plant them so that the First Tree would grow once again.
I should have thought harder about what it meant to control trees on Solstheim, but it did not remain a mystery for long. A few minutes walk to the east of the stone brought me to a cluster of trees in which one of the blue goblins stood contently, surrounded by docile tree-women. He yelled something in his own language when he spotted me and with a wave of his arm sent his leafy soldiers loping towards me.
Mindful that they were thralls to the goblin I did not attack them, instead battering my way through the group with shield and shoulder in what was no doubt a very awkward looking and un-Khajiit stratagem. The thief of seeds was killed with a single thrust of my spear and four small green seeds fell from his hands as he collapsed.

I became aware that the sound of wooden legs crunching through the snow behind me had died down after I picked up the seeds and when I looked up the tree-women stared blankly back, evidently awaiting a command of some kind. I am not sure if the creatures can blink, but they never did so long as they were placidly gazing at me and the effect was rather unsettling.

I started to walk away and they made no move to follow or attack, choosing for some reason to remain with the fallen body of their former master.
Finding a place to plant the seeds was the easiest part of the whole episode. Just north of the Stone was a conspicuous circle of fine brown dirt surrounded by the short, tough grass of the Solstheim plain. I know little about gardening, but it seemed a  good place to plant the seeds.

My guess was correct, for when I walked back to the Stone it began to glow and produce small globes of white light. Only the Sun Stone was left to visit now and the day was still young. I felt that today I would finally be done with the Skaal's test.
The map placed the Sun Stone at the end of the river I have been following for the past couple of days, so I walked along the river bank and came across a small cave facing the water. My few experiences with caves on Solstheim encouraged me to keep walking, but this one showed the signs of recent habitation. The river at that point was too shallow to permit even the smallest boat, so smugglers seemed unlikely. My curiosity got the better of me and I cautiously pushed the heavy furs serving as the door aside as I descended into the frozen earth.

The only inhabitant was a Nord woman and contrary to everything my life has taught me to expect, was not hostile. She introduced herself as 'Kolfinna' and welcomed me to the cave that was her home. She and her husband shared the small living quarters until his recent death at the hands of his friend. The husband, charmingly named 'Gustav Two-Teeth' had been slain during an argument with another Nord called 'Sigvarr the Strong'. Kolfinna sought monetary compensation for the death of her husband, a Nord custom called 'wergild'.

She was scared to talk to Sigvarr herself and asked if I could have a word with the man. She did not wish the man dead, but she did want his family heirloom, a small gem called 'Pinetear'. If our conversation came to blows she was not adverse to my killing him, but her preference was for the man to live.

He frequently spent time hunting bears and wolves near a collection of stones called the 'Altar of Thrond' northwest of her riverside home, but she warned me that his favorite weapon, a two-handed hammer, was enchanted to inflict paralysis. I would have to rely on my greater agility and speed to put enough distance between us so that I could dispatch him with arrows, if it came to that.

So the Sun Stone was forced to wait while I wandered about trying to find Sigvarr. I surprised a group of smugglers camping along the river as I followed it north and I found it to be a bit refreshing to be fighting poorly-equipped Dunmer again for little to no reward.
I also found Louis Beauchamp's airship...what remains of it. The scattered wreckage and injuries the crew's corpses present suggest quite a hard landing, but the Captain survived the wrecking of the craft only to succumb to Solstheim's cold a few days later.
His journal suggests a trip beset by bad omens, the most telling being that of an Argonian crew-member that tried to intentionally crash the ship and had to be tossed overboard. They did find the burial cave where Louis's amulet should be but crashed during their attempted landing. It is encouraging to know that the amulet is close to the wreck, but no specific directions were given on how to get there. It is something I shall have to keep in mind for later. Louis would be interested to read the Captain's account, so I liberated that from the man's frozen hands and left him and his crew as I found them.

The 'Altar of Thrond' was atop a small hill near the wreck and looked every bit like an actual altar, which I did not expect. I was lucky to have stumbled upon it as I did, as from a distance it just looks like a collection of barren rocks.
Sigvarr was in a copse of trees near the Altar just as Kolfinna said he would be and warily waved to me as I approached. I got right to the point, announcing that I had been sent by Kolfinna to collect wergild for the death of her husband. He brashly declared that he did what had to be done and that, fearing for his life, had no choice but to kill Gustav.

Hoping to avoid having to fight him, I explained that even so, Kolfinna considered him to be her husband's friend and that his death deeply wounded her due to from whom it came. I spoke of the admiration I had for the Nords' bonds of brotherhood and how surprised I was to hear that such a warrior as Sigvarr had slain his friend over a petty argument. This was all untrue, of course, I had no such admiration and never really thought about anything of the sort to begin with. But it was surprisingly effective.

Sigvarr handed me the gem Pinetear, saying that he hoped its possession would help ease Kolfinna's pain and that he would carry the guilt of what he had done with him for the rest of his life. Having said that, he walked away and I started the walk back to Kolfinna's cave.

She was pleased to receive the gem and even more so that Sigvarr still lived. As a reward she is letting me stay in her small cave whenever I wish, which is rather more accepting than I expected, and I was given a key to her late husband's chest, but it contained Nordic fur armor that neither fit nor was worth much. Still, it is a good deed done and I am glad I took the time to help.

I finally reached the Sun Stone ironically long after the sun had set. Its quest was just as brief as the others: Go west and free the Sun from the Halls of Penumbra. It sounds like it will be similar to the Wind Stone's task, but I had no time left in the day, so the Sun Stone's will have to wait for tomorrow.
However, there was enough time for one piece of business: the airship Captain's journal. I Recalled back to Ald'ruhn and sought out the mage Louis so that he would learn what became of his ship. He was distraught to hear that the ship was a wreck and the entire crew perished, but he pressed a sack of coins into my hand and urged me to seek out his Amulet myself, which I will likely do when I have the time.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Morrowind Day 107 - Progress Once Again

30 Sun's Dusk
After spending several days flailing about, I can say that after today I may actually be successfully adapting to Solstheim's unique challenges.

A refreshing sleep and a healthy breakfast at my manor did wonders for my injuries and outlook. I managed quite a number of health restoration potions and even two of the more difficult magicka restoration elixirs out of the ingredients I have been collecting from Solstheim. With that taken care of I purchased a dozen more armorer hammers from my manor's small tradehouse, intent on finally not being caught on the island without something that I suddenly needed.

Better prepared and well-rested, I walked once again to the village of Khuul to await my ride. I did have to wait this time, but only for an hour while S'virr finished loading his small boat with "merchandise". The trip seemed to go quicker than usual and we landed at Fort Frostmoth while it was still early in the afternoon.

The Earth Stone was awaiting the completion of its strange task and according to my notes it ordered that I search northeast of it for a cavern called the 'Cave of Hidden Music' so that I might learn the 'Song of the Earth'. The Stone is quite a distance from the fort and I fought off attacks from a half-dozen wolves, two nearly naked Nords, and a Nord witch while on my way there. 

Along the coast I came upon two lit torches stuck in the beach for no greatly apparent reason. I doubt the hostile barbarians I have been killing have a reason to place the torches and the Skaal are entirely too far away to have done so. A curiosity, but likely an unimportant one.
The Earth Stone's cave was difficult to find, largely due to my mindset that a cave is something built into a mountain. On Solstheim, most of the caves seem to be built along a gentle slope and then burrowed into the frozen earth, with a large stone house serving as both the entrance and a large portion of the cavern itself. I am too used to Vvardenfell's doors set into mountains and spent a lot of time today wandering near the hills when my goal was built on a plain. By the time I found the 'Cave of Hidden Music' it had grown dark and begun to snow.
Like all of Solstheim's burial locations, this one was infested with the Nord's particular breed of undead warrior, but they were dispersed and slain one at a time. I found what I was supposed to find in a second chamber of the cave, but it took me a few minutes to figure out what it was I had actually found.
An odd droning noise had been periodically sounding while I had been in the cave and this room held the reason for all the noise. Every couple of seconds a blast of air would rush through a series of hollow stone fixtures hanging from the ceiling and blow over a second series of three stone fixtures just beneath them. This creates a droning noise in three pitches that can be heard throughout the entire cave. This was the object of the Earth Stone's request, but it was not clear how I was to learn the 'Song of the Earth'.

Only by accident did I discover what it was I needed to do. I was setting my equipment down in front of the stones so that I could climb behind them when I accidentally smacked one of them with my spear as I turned around. This caused a blast of air to come shooting up from the floor, rather than the ceiling, producing a different note. After a moment's pause in the 'song' the rhythm began again from the fixtures in the ceiling, but now I had an idea of what was expected of me.

Striking each of the floor stones produced a note identical to the ones produced from the ceiling, but in a different order. The rightmost fixture on the ceiling produced a deep sound, but the rightmost floor fixture produced a high sound when struck. I completely lack an ear for music, but after a few tries I managed to reproduce the order of sounds coming from the ceiling and then repeated the process when the ceiling fixtures started producing a different set of sounds. 

And it was in this way that I learned the 'Song of the Earth', but I am not sure what use this is for me. I really need to find time to catch up on the Skaal's legends and give my little quest some context.

It was late into the night when I exited the 'Cave of Hidden Music', but I was on the far side of the island, so skipping the Earth Stone in favor of heading for Fort Frostmoth meant just as much of a walk. I made my way back to the Stone, fighting off at least a dozen wolves who seem a great deal more numerous and hostile after the night falls. 

The Stone behaved just as the others did: once I approached it the Stone began to glow and started shedding green sparks of light. The Earth Stone's quest was completed.
The sky was very clear and I estimated it to be close to midnight by the time I had finished with the Earth Stone. There is no safe place west of the river to sleep, so I had no choice but to make my way back to the fort, fighting wolves and bears along the way.

I learned at the fort that it was just past three in the morning, so my rest tonight will be quite short, but I am more eager to finish the Skaal's quest than I am to sleep late into the morning. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Morrowind Day 106 - Further Lessons Learned

29 Sun's Dusk
Life continues to impart lessons upon me in a very painful way. I woke this morning full of confidence that I could make a lot of progress today and I am going to bed only further convinced that sinking Solstheim to the bottom of the sea would only be an improvement.

The morning started as they have been as of late: on a pile of bear furs in a tiny wooden room in a house staffed entirelly with drunken Nords. I cannot begin to imagine how a Khajiit straight out of Elsweyr would have dealt with it.

The Wind Stone was my first task of the day and the only one that did not cause me any grief. I passed the Beast Stone while on my way and the Stone is still emitting light and the Good Beast was placidly gnawing on some berries nearby. I wonder how long he (or she) is planning on staying there.
Further up the river I came across a couple clearly enamored with one another. Both were Nords, the man was fully armored in the typical way of this island and the woman seemed content to wear heavy fur clothing. Both were staring at each other, apparently to the exclusion of anything around them. Neither of them seemed much of a threat, so I approached and cautiously asked what they were doing.
The man replied that he and the woman shared a love that his wife would never understand and the woman merely asked me to gaze upon the man's masculine visage. The meeting between the three of us seemed rather surreal considering how dangerous the wilderness has been for me, but the couple simply wished me a safe day and I moved on, leaving the two of them behind.

Naturally it started to snow as I grew close to the Wind Stone and soon I was stumbling through a blizzard that suddenly whipped up and reduced my vision to barely an arm's length ahead of me. Truly the Blight Storm of Solstheim. The storm eased a bit when I judged myself very close to the Stone and I merely had to contend with a heavy snowfall by the time I actually reached it.
The Wind Stone reacted to its demand being met in the same way the Beast Stone did. Approaching the Stone caused it to glow and begin emitting small baubles of light and I had to satisfy myself with that reward.

I began this meandering quest from the Stone closest to the Skaal's village and the Stones made a sort of circle around the entire island. Visiting the Wind Stone after the Beast Stone put me on a westward path which eventually curled around Fort Frostmoth and to the southeast peninsula where the Sun Stone sat. With the exception of the Tree Stone, all of the Stones on my map are marked either along or at the end of rivers and the Tree Stone sits between two of them anyway. I have not seen any fish in the running water I have peered into, but the waterways were apparently important enough to someone in the past. Perhaps it was possible to use small boats at one point. It would certainly be preferable to walking around this place.

The Water Stone was next and was marked as sitting near a small river on the west coast, near some large hills. A crude road snaked past the Wind Stone and I followed it heading west hoping against all expectations that it would lead directly to the Water Stone. It did not.

What it did lead to was very mysterious. The road died out at the foot of a large hill which had a cavern built into it at the very top, if the furs covering the entrance is any indication. A huge snow-white wolf was prowling at the entrance, but my Daedric weaponry made short work of it.
Attempting to move the furs aside brought forth a loud yell from within the cave, asking me what the name of the wolf the Nords called 'Hrothmund's Bane' was. I had no idea and I did not want to risk the ire of whatever Nord was inside challenging me, so I yelled back that I did not know the wolf's name and that I was therefore leaving. As I turned around the voice smugly informed me that I was allowed to come back and try again, if I wanted.

While circling around the hill I was charged by two of the blue pig-riding goblins. The melee very quickly turned into my scramble up a steep hillside while the two stout warriors tried goading their mounts up the hill. The amulet of levitation that I brought with me was of little actual help, for there was nowhere to levitate to that they would not be able to reach me at.
Recklessness was the order of the day and I charged back down the hill, managing to knock one of the goblins off his mount as I hurdled past. The goblin proved to be a lot less threatening once dismounted and he expired before his confused mount and mounted partner could turn on me. The furry pigs are fair warriors on their own and I took quite a few jabs of its tusks before I pinned it into the snow with my spear, leaving only mounted goblin left. He had failed to take advantage of my distraction with the pig creature, apparently unsure as to whether he should flee or attack. By the time he made up his mind it his would-be advantage had been lost and he and his mount fell quickly.

The Water Stone was much easier to find than the Wind Stone had been, as it appropriately faced the water. Its task was an easy one, but strange: I first had to seek an island west of the stone and seek something called the 'Swimmer' who would lead me to the 'Water of Life'. The Stone was already on the shore and the only thing west of it was a collection of large rocks jutting out from the shore, so I headed there, not sure as to what I was looking for.
I certainly would never have guessed my guide was to be a black-furred version of the fat crawling things that seem to infest Solstheim's waterways. Like the Good Beast, it seemed content to crawl about its small isle until it saw me, at which point it made a barking noise and jumped into the sea. It was obvious I was to follow, but swimming in the icy waters would have been the death of me. I had two choices: Water Walk behind it or attempt to follow it via the coastline. I chose to Water Walk and hopefully have enough magicka to get me back to the coast at the end of the creature's journey.
My hope of not getting wet was dashed when our trip ended in what seemed like the middle of the sea. I could only barely make out the outline of a metal door set into the water below, making a dive into the ocean a very unwelcome requirement. 

The underwater door opened to a water-filled tunnel, but I had enough energy to use my water-breathing spell, ruining my plan to walk back to the coastline after all this. The tunnel eventually led to a small alcove with a lonely skeleton and a collection of potions. I dispatched the skeleton without any trouble and spotted an ornate silver flask sitting among  the plain vials of some spoiled elixir. I guessed correctly that it was the 'Water of Life' that the stone sent me to collect.

Swimming out of the cave, I immediately headed towards the closet shore, some distance away from the Stone. I encountered nothing along the coastline though and thanks to Azura's gift covered the distance fairly quickly.
Approaching the stone resulted in bubbles floating out and up along the Stone, popping as they began to drift away. And so the Water Stone was satisfied.

Three stones remained and the next was to be the Earth Stone, almost directly south of the Water Stone. The land turned from snow back to tough grass and tall trees and my foes changed from pig-riding goblins to bands of hostile Nords. I spied three of them making camp across a small river and tried to sneak by them, but I was spotted and all three jumped into the water, swimming towards me. I cannot understand why they did something so stupid, but not one of them made it to my side of the riverbank and the arrow-filled bodies drifted gently with the current and eventually out to sea.
When I reached the Earth Stone I was told to travel northeast and seek the 'Cave of the Hidden Music' so that I might learn the 'Song of the Earth'. If experience is any guide, the cave will be full of undead Nords and wolves, nothing I felt I was up to dealing with at the end of the day.

Instead I Recalled back to Ald'ruhn once again, this time to purchase alchemy ingredients so that I can grind my own potions of healing and restoration when I am on Solstheim. If it were not so hostile a place I would say the island is begging for some sort of settlement, but I fear such an enterprise is doomed to fail in the face of the difficult environment. 

Tomorrow I hope to complete my business with the Stones, but that may be reaching for a bit too much. At the very least I expect to complete the rituals for the Earth and Tree Stones, leaving but one Stone for the next day. This task has been very difficult and dangerous, but also invaluable for teaching me what to expect from the island.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Morrowind Day 105 - Nord Cultists

28 Sun's Dusk
Today was something of an embarrassment for me. Too much of it was spent correcting mistakes I made during the previous days and too little of it was spent moving forwards with any one of my many tasks on Solstheim.

I replaced breakfast with a splash of water on my face this morning, eager to see my small home in Ald'ruhn again and re-equip myself for this dangerous island. My enchanted amulet, certainly the most prized possession I have, made the trip back to Vvardenfell a quick one.

The spear and dagger enchanted to summon their Daedric counterparts were on the top of my list, but I also wanted to bring the actual Daedric weapons sitting in my manor to the north.. I thought initially to bring the Daedric bow as well, but archery has been the only aspect of combat with which I have not been having issues, so it remains my stronghold.

It was gratifying to see a clear sky when I left the house, perhaps my theory that the Blight storms need to lose their power gradually has some truth to it. Before starting my walk to the manor I stopped at the Fighter's Guild to purchase as armorer's hammers. I have no great skill in repair, so I bought as many as I considered reasonably, assuming that I would wear out many of them to little effect.

From the manor I took my Daedric spear, dagger, and a rare short slashing blade favored by the Bosmer, as well as a few more armoring hammers and an amulet enchanted to help me blend in to my environment. No Blight storm harassed me on the walk to Khuul and I reached the village just before noon. Fortunately S'virr was already there, saving me the trouble of having to either loiter at the village or attempt a walk across the sea.

The boat trip was just as grueling as the first time was and I set foot on the island well after dark, still with a long walk to Thirshk to survive. On my way there I had several interesting encounters.

The first of these was with a Nord who kept to the high standards set by the Ashlander bandits of Vvardenfell by immediately charging me with a dagger in her hand as soon as she saw me. My Daedric slashing blade made very short work of the woman whose dagger was silvered and probably of local manufacture. She might have been one of the 'snow witches' the soldiers have been warning me about.
Further on I came upon something even stranger. I heard the sound of many people chanting in some strange language as I worked my way towards the river and I crested a hill to see a very odd sight: Cavorting among the trees were a group of Nords, some of them without clothes, several wolves, and one of the plant-creatures. The clothed Nords were armed and armored and the four of them seemed to be on the watch for anything that would disturb whatever this was. The naked ones clenched daggers in their hands, but paid no attention to anything but spinning and jumping and occasionally yelling at the sky. The wolves and the plant-creature did nothing at all, but cooperatively remained within the group of Nords as they jumped and twirled around them.
As how these things usually go, one of the Nords spotted me and the entire group, Nords, wolves, and the plant-creature, sprang at me. I was some distance away however and managed to kill all of the wolves with arrows before they reached me. The naked cultists were next to tumble to the ground riddled with arrows, but by then the plant-creature and the Nord guards were on me. My decision to bring the Daedric spear was an excellent one and they fell quickly, the plant-creature three times.
I could find no hint as to what the group was doing or why. More curious is how the Nords managed to survive the cold without wearing anything, for I found no discarded clothes to suggest their state had been a recent one. I know I am cold all the time on this island, it makes me almost long for the hot, choking stink of the Dwemer ruins.

The remainder of my walk to the mead hall of Thirsk was surprisingly without event. I was welcomed as heartily as I ever have been and my bedroll was still available. My first task tomorrow must be to re-visit the Wind Stone, complete the ritual, and move on to the next one. I shall also start to look into the fate of the mage's lost airship. I feel a great deal more confident with my new assortment of equipment and hope to make a great deal of progress tomorrow so that I can make up for the complete lack of today's.